When the crammed sidewalks and packed subway cars get to be too much, get out of town for an outdoor adventure near NYC. Queue up the road trip songs: To really get back to nature, you have to venture at least an hour outside the city. The adrenaline rush from whitewater rafting, rock climbing or snow tubing combined with the magnificent natural scenery is enough to make any New Yorker forget about the Big Apple for a few hours. Still not ready to go back to the concrete jungle? Book a nearby hotel room to turn any of the day trips below into a relaxing weekend getaway.
Spring outdoor adventures
Scrambling up Breakneck Ridge
With an ascent of 1,442 feet, this 9.6-mile loop trail will definitely leave you huffing and puffing. Though advanced hikers can certainly tackle it on their own, beginners might want to book a guided excursion with Xcelerated Adventures. Come prepared with sturdy hiking boots and durable clothing—you’ll be scrambling over quite a few rocks along the route.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Rick McCharles
Glamping in the Adirondacks
So you want to spend some time in the great outdoors, but pitching a tent isn’t exactly your forte. Glamp, not camp, in a spacious canvas lodge on a bluff overlooking the Adirondacks. Thankfully, this campsite has showers, modern bathrooms and cots. Some of the lodges even include wood-burning stoves. After you’ve worn yourselves out hiking or fishing, there’s nothing more wonderful than returning to camp for a chef-prepared meal. The camp concierge (yes, that’s a real job) will even start a bonfire so you can roast marshmallows.
Sailing on the Hudson River
Make the most of sunny days by getting out on the water. Hudson River Community Sailing offers three-hour introductory classes most weekends during the spring and summer to get you started. You’ll learn the difference between port and starboard, what “come about” means and, most importantly, how to steer. Ahoy sailor!
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/rabendeviaregia
Hiking the Surprise Lake Loop
After climbing up an extremely rocky ridge and meandering along a fairly flat trail for a few miles, you see it: the unexpected (but aptly named) Surprise Lake appearing over a vista. On a clear day, you can even see the teeny-tiny New York City skyline in the distance. The terrain can be tough, but it’s worth it for the incredible views.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/WhatsAllThisThen
Summer outdoor adventures
Whitewater rafting on the Lehigh River
Adventurers looking to really get their adrenaline pumping will want to book a whitewater rafting trip on the Lehigh River in the Poconos. The rapids here qualify as Class II and III, meaning you’re likely to experience some intense, powerful waves. Never fear—that’s why you’re going with an experienced Sourced Adventures guide. Prepare to get soaked!
Biking to a campsite in a New Jersey vineyard
Sure, the first day of this weekend bike excursion ends at a winery, but it’s no joke: You’ll ride 56 miles the first day and 45 the second! Luckily, the paths you’ll follow are relatively flat, so you won’t burn out too quickly. You’ll start at Sandy Hook Beach, and wind your way along the coast before turning west to ride through the countryside of Monmouth County. Once you arrive at Cream Ridge Winery, you’ll enjoy a wine tasting and hot meal before setting up camp for the night in the stunning vineyard.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jeffrey Beall
Competing in the Tough Mudder Long Island
Though it’s held at the quaint Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Long Island, this July’s Tough Mudder competition is anything but cute. Competitors will have to power through a 10–12 mile course with more than 20 obstacles, including 10-foot tall walls, channels of icy water and a deranged version of the monkey bars. Don’t think you can handle it? There’s also a Tough Mudder Half that puts you through just 5 miles and 13 obstacles. No biggie, right?
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/thecollectivity
Kayaking down the Delaware River
Travel an hour and a half outside of the city to find some peace and quiet on the serene Delaware River. Pick up a paddle and kayak for a few hours on this excursion led by Sourced Adventures. After a picnic lunch, you’ll end the afternoon with a wine tasting at Westfall Winery in New Jersey. That’s one way to soothe your sore muscles.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jim Pennucci
Stand-up paddleboarding in Manhasset Bay
Staying upright on a stand-up paddleboard requires core strength and, of course, balance. Still, it’s much easier for beginners to pick up than you might expect. Start off with just an hourlong rental from Kostal Paddle in Manhasset Bay and see how you fare. Or, if you think you’ll need a more hands-on learning experience, book a lesson to get the lowdown from a local guide.
Tubing on the Navesink River
Looking for a more relaxing day out? Join Northeast Mountain Guiding for a float down the Navesink River on a tube. Bobbing along the serene waters is the perfect way to wash away your cares and worries. And since it’s just an hour outside of the city, it’s the perfect activity if you’re short on time.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/ScubaBear68
Fall outdoor adventures
Biking to a craft brewery in the Hudson Valley
After the city stopped passenger service on the the Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad in 1958, the train tracks became a rail trail perfect for cyclists. Bike the northernmost 35 miles of the trail on this day outing with Gotham Bicycle Tours. You’ll start out in Brewster, then bike south under a shady canopy of trees until you reach Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Elmsford. Sample 10 of their craft beers and raise a glass to the journey before heading back into the city!
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Forsaken Fotos
Rock climbing at the Delaware Water Gap
Don’t learn to climb on some lame indoor course—get out into the wilderness to experience the real deal. New Jersey’s biggest and best multi-pitch climbing area—Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area—is the perfect place for you to put your climbing and belaying skills to the test. Northeast Mountain Guiding only employs experts certified by the Professional Climbing Guide Institute, so you know you’re learning from the best of the best.
Foraging along the Appalachian Trail
At 2,190 miles long, the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking path in the world. It runs from Georgia to Maine, spanning 14 states. Meet up with self-described “Wildman” Steve Brill to walk the Pawling, N.Y. stretch of the trail and forage for wild mushrooms, berries and herbs along the way.
Cruising to Bear Mountain
Forget driving: Take a Circle Line cruise to Bear Mountain State Park for a much more scenic journey. You’ll spend two and a half hours cruising the Hudson River—and admiring the fall foliage—before disembarking at the state park for a few hours of free time. Stroll some of the park’s many trails or watch for bald eagles at the Iona Island National Estuarine Sanctuary. Once you board the boat back to NYC, there's plenty of time to grab a beer and toast the bucolic natural surroundings.
Winter outdoor adventures
Hiking in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve
Some parks look dead in the winter, but this 23,000-acre preserve offers dramatic scenery year-round. Minnewaska is known for its lakes and waterfalls that turn into dramatic icescapes when the temperature drops. Hike along 25 miles of footpaths and 35 miles of well-maintained carriage roads. Keep an eye out for guided hikes, such as a three-mile trek with a stop at Awosting Falls, which environmental educator Laura Conner says “looks like a frozen volcano in winter.”
Cross-country skiing at Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center
Leave it to the pros to set up a world-class cross-country-skiing destination. This spot was founded by former Olympian Olavi Hirvonen and his wife, Ann. Ski along more than 30 miles of paths through the Adirondack Forest Preserve. You can also try a kicksled—a man-powered vehicle in which one person sits while the other pushes ($10–$15/day).
Snow tubing at Hunter Mountain
This downhill sport has all the screaming momentum you crave sans the need for skill or coordination: Just settle in and let gravity do the work. Hunter Mountain gave its tubing park a major makeover a few years ago—it now boasts 24 shoots, each 1,000 feet long, and a new carpet lift to take you back to the top when you’re ready for another go.
Ice climbing with Alpine Endeavors
The folks at Alpine Endeavors literally wrote the book on this activity in the area (An Ice Climber’s Guide to the Catskill Mountains). So who better to lead you up the slippery facade of the Shawangunks? Guides will pick you up from the Poughkeepsie Metro-North station, set you up with lunch, and drive you to and from the best ice-climbing spots in the region. They’ll also provide all of the necessary equipment. Beginner? Instruction is included for parties of three or higher.
Everything at Windham Mountain
Is there any kind of cold-weather pastime that Windham Mountain doesn’t have in its Adventure Park? There’s tubing on a 650-foot-long slope ($20–$25); ice-skating on a 120' x 60' rink ($10, skate rental $5); and three-odd miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at nearby Windham Country Club. For kids, there’s a mini snowmobile park and a Euro Bungy, a hybrid bungee-jump–trampoline. But our favorite has to be the twin zip lines, which allow you to race someone down the 500-foot-long course while you’re 40 feet in the air ($10–$15).